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God is Trying to Send You Valentines Everyday"


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Voices of Faith

February 26, 1999
Lenten Noonday Preaching Series
Calvary Episcopal Church
Memphis, TN

God is Trying to Send You Valentines Every Day
The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews

Sit back now for a minute and journey with me to when you were a kid. You were about nine, ten, eleven, twelve, somewhere in there; it will vary for some of you, maybe a little earlier, maybe even early teens. Play with me in your mind that time in your life. Remember something like this?

There was a girl or a boy in that, we'll call it, fifth grade class, and she or he had been in the class several years before, but you never noticed before. Along about the fifth grade, you began to say, "She's kind of nice or he's kind of nice," and you found yourself making sure you were somewhere in the hall where she or he was.

As a matter of fact, you discovered that you got your tray in the cafeteria in such a way that you were in line with her, and maybe, if you were lucky, you got to sit at the same table with her or him. You even discovered that person laughed at the funny things you said. And you remember one time smelling her hair and thinking how good that smell was, although when you were lucky enough to sit behind her, you played with it and would twist it and make her mad. You remember thinking to yourself, "I think he or she is the nicest person I've ever met."

Every time you could, you would walk home so you could walk part way with her or him. Oh, it was out of your way, but you always made up some silly excuse for why you really wanted to go the other way. When you were driving somewhere, you asked your mother or daddy to take the car down that street. You just felt good as you passed her house.

You thought a few times about picking up the phone and calling her, but you wouldn't dare do that. No, you wouldn't dare, but you thought about it. You sometimes thought when the phone would ring, "What if he is calling me?" Never happened, of course.

Then came Valentine's Day, and valentines appeared on the desk. You opened them and some were corny and silly. Then there was one that said something that was kind of nice, and you opened it and it said, "Guess who?" You went, "Oh," and you took that valentine home. You kept it and you threw away the others. You kept it and you put it under the socks in your drawer where nobody would find it.

One day, just on a lark, you said to your best friend, "You know what?" and then you would fill in the blanks with his name or her name… "I think" so and so "is really nice." And before lunch time, the whole school was saying, "You are sweethearts. You are sweethearts. You got a crush on her. She's got a crush on you."

That was not anything like what it was. It was totally ruined. You weren't her sweetheart. She wasn’t your sweetheart. It had nothing to do with that. It had to do with the fact that you thought she was the nicest person you had ever met. You loved to be around her. It had nothing to do with all that other stuff. It was all ruined.

Suddenly the whole school knew, and you could hardly look at her, much less pick up your tray. You avoided her every time you turned around. You didn't want to walk home on the same street. It was all gone, because they had totally mistaken what it was all about.

For some of us sitting here today, we've already got the name; we already remember who it was. Oh, we might not have heard of that person since the fifth grade, seventh grade, ninth grade, but you remember. For me it was Jackie Snyder. I don't know where Jackie Snyder is now, but she was really a nice person.

The spiritual journey, Jesus said, is a lot like being a child. You see, the spiritual journey that you are on is not unlike that innocent honesty, the integrity of what it is like to be ten or eleven and like another person. Some of us in this room right now have never ever found another person quite like that relationship.

In my priesthood of about forty years, about five times I have married people seventy, seventy-five, who came back together after they were widows or widowers and they met their sixth grade, fourth grade, fifth grade friend. The bonding was as true and as real as they knew it was at ten years old.

The spiritual journey that you and I are on is not a public thing. It's not a thing to be talked about. Jesus said that when you say your prayers, go in the closet, shut the door. Your Father in Heaven will seek you and be with you in secret.

Jesus had this happen to him and his best friends. They were not kids, but they were best friends. I can't even imagine the friendship between Jesus and his thee best friends: Peter and the brothers, James and John. Scripture doesn't go into telling us what it was like for four men to bond together like those men did. I think it was like nothing you and I have ever experienced. The deep and profound respect and admiration, deep love they had (men don't use that word often) for each other.

Jesus often said this to them: "Don't talk about it. Don't talk about our bonding and our friendship and our love for one another. Just keep quiet."

One of those times they went up on a mountain. They got up there and something happened that was beyond description. We call it in scripture, in theology, the "transfiguration." I don't know what it was. None of us know really. It says just a few verses about Jesus being transformed, but whatever it was, it was so important, so powerful, that Peter said, "Let's build a monument up here. We've got to put something up here that's going to remember this moment." That was certainly not being quiet about it. Jesus said, "No, no monuments, nothing."

As they were going down the mountain together, walking side by side, Jesus said, "By the way, don't mention what you've just experienced." Can you imagine what that was like for Peter? Keep his mouth shut. Peter?

You can imagine if it was contemporary and we could change the language into today, it would be like Jesus saying to Peter, "For crying out loud, Peter, don't put this on the Internet. Don't tell anyone...."

Saying your prayers is not a time for a microphone to be placed in front of you or for anybody to be listening or watching. Jesus knew this. The beginning of that spiritual journey is to keep the treasure of the private relationship between you and God growing without overexposing.

You see, today with things like television, magazines, papers, and Internet, it is as if everything that has any worth at all is going to be out there somewhere for me to see, read or watch.

The truth is, the best stuff in life, the stuff that we live and die for, is not out there. It is in here. Because it is so public and available, we tend not to journey ourselves in developing what’s called the interior life. That is what it is all about.

The interior life. If you overexpose it, if you get caught up with talking too much about it, it will lose its efficacy to be your journey with your God.

When I first started my journey discovering who God was for me and how I could think about God other than as a policemen, or a judge, or a funny man on a cloud, I met a man in Nashville. I was a disc jockey in downtown Nashville at the time. He took me on this journey, and I began to get more and more excited about reading spiritual things, praying and spending time.

He said, "You need to spend some time every day practicing the presence of God in your life." I said, "Oh, you don’t understand. I’m busy. I’m a disc jockey. I’m playing records. The telephone is ringing. 'Would you put this request on for so and so? Would you make this request?' I’m answering the phone, playing these things, reading commercials."

Then he said a fascinating thing to me. He said, "The next time the phone rings and the request is for a love song to be dedicated to somebody, in your heart, after you’ve said, 'This is dedicated to so and so,' say in your heart, 'God this is my love song to you.'" I thought that was corny, given the kinds of popular songs I was playing. But let me tell you, you can do it.

Next time you’re in the car listening to the radio and you hear a song that has something to do with love and affection and romance, see if you can say, "That song is being played right now for me to sing to you, Lord God. For me to dedicate these few moments in the car to you, Lord God." You can practice the presence of God even with the radio on.

You think I would have told my manager, "Now I’m here playing these records to the Glory of God," or any of the other announcers in the team or the secretary who was sitting outside the big glass window? It has taken me forty years to tell anybody, and I’m telling you today.

The real things, the real moments when we practice the presence of God in our journey (except perhaps when we're with a trusted spiritual counselor), these are for you. These are your treasured moments.

Andrew Greeley, the great sociologist and Roman Catholic priest at the University of Chicago, did a study about fifteen years ago on people and their religious experiences. He discovered that many, many Americans have had religious experiences of deep and profound meaning. Most of them have never told a soul.

We think about Pentecostals having them all the time, because that is part of their liturgical tradition, speaking in tongues and so forth. We don’t think of those in the more mainline churches. He said, "Guess what? Of all the people who had these, the people who had the most," hold onto your hats," were Episcopalians, and the people who never told a soul were Episcopalians."

Some of you are nodding because you too have had that journey. That is what the journey is about. For those of you who have not, part of it is to be able to live this life of the spiritual, quietly developing yourself in relationship to God, not revealing it to others.

You know that kid from your early days, or even folks right now whom you admire greatly, and you know the treasure of those relationships. You even remember that you maybe got a valentine yourself that had deep meaning.

God is trying to send you valentines every day. That is the kind of God we worship. You go to work tomorrow morning, and there are going to be valentines, although you can’t see them. You’ve got to develop the eye to see those blessings that God is giving you. They all say, "Guess Who?" They're just not very visible.

One of the things you can do during Lent is to say, "I’m going to begin to develop the technique of spotting some of those "Guess Who's?" on my desk, in my living room or wherever I spend most of my time."

God is trying to break through to you to be your valentine. God wants you to love God just the way God loves you. Will you be my valentine? Will you love me as much as I love you? That is the gospel.

Most of us go flitting along, paying no attention to the fact that God is wanting to be loved by us. Every minute of every day God is saying to God's Self, "I think she’s neat. I think he’s as close to the best as I could ever produce. I love the stuffings out of her. I wish she would love me back, just a little, the way I love her." ... Amen.

Copyright ©1999 The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews


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